What should I wear for a job interview at Microsoft?
July 23, 2012 6:07 PM   Subscribe

I have a job interview scheduled at Microsoft, at the Redmond campus. What should I wear?

I would normally wear a suit and a tie to an interview, but Microsoft's dress code is so casual that I am afraid it would send the wrong message. So I have narrowed it down to two options:

1) Suit and tie anyway, better to be overdressed than underdressed
2) Jacket, dress shirt (no tie), a pair of high(er) end jeans and oxford shoes.

My interview is for a Product Management position at their marketing group, so I believe being a little dressier would be less of a problem, but I'm not sure how much.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Suit and tie, especially for Marketing.
posted by AaRdVarK at 6:15 PM on July 23, 2012

Marketing? Definitely a suit and tie. (Single-breasted.)
posted by dotgirl at 6:16 PM on July 23, 2012

I interview engineering candidates at MS and many of them wear suit and tie. It is very unlikely to count against you unless the position you are interviewing for had a description like "quirky, cool and style conscious".
posted by jacalata at 6:31 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Even in a very casual environment like mine (digital arm of an advertising firm, shorts and flip-flops normal if clients aren't visiting) professionalism in prospective hires is always appreciated. You want to err on the side of overdressed, then dress down if/when you join us, not so much assume it's casual from the get-go (even if you know it is). Good luck!
posted by jalexei at 6:49 PM on July 23, 2012

Suit and tie.

Wear a tie to every job interview for anything above flipping burgers. Every one. It is the done thing. The office's dress code doesn't matter, because you don't work there yet; they won't be thinking in those terms.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:49 PM on July 23, 2012

Famous Monster : Wear a tie to every job interview for anything above flipping burgers.

Absolutely bad advice - for many tech positions, a tie would cost you the job.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:55 PM on July 23, 2012 [15 favorites]

Famous Monster : Wear a tie to every job interview for anything above flipping burgers.

Absolutely bad advice - for many tech positions, a tie would cost you the job.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:55 PM on July 23 [+] [!]

Completely agree with Kruger5. My SF tech company actually explicitly tells you not to wear a suit, if you showed up in one it'd show that you can't read in addition to being a bad sign with regards to cultural fit.

...and frankly, if you make it to the in-person interview, cultural fit is *extremely* important.

As for MSFT, I don't know (though my company was just bought by them!). I'd never wear a suit and tie to a tech job in SF, Redmond might be different. But here I definitely do closer to your #2 option. I don't think I ever wore jeans, but went with khakis or slacks and a blazer, no tie.
posted by alaijmw at 7:00 PM on July 23, 2012

Don't know about Microsoft in particular, but for general advice, I really, really agree with Kruger5. I was told that it never hurts to overdress, so I tried to interview at a startup as a software engineer and I showed up wearing a suit. It was an awful idea. Don't be like me.
posted by tantivy at 7:03 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Obviously if the interview instruction "explicitly tells you not to wear a suit," you wouldn't. I don't think the OP is asking for advice in that situation. He/she is asking what to do when you're not sure what's expected. And it can be hard to know what's expected.

Still, I find it hard to believe that 'for many tech positions, a tie would cost you the job.' Good lord. If that's the hiring mentality, it sounds more like obsessive-compulsive nutty than 'quirky cool.' I'd run away from a place like that.
posted by LonnieK at 7:16 PM on July 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

I hate to say this but looks really do count for Product Management jobs at Microsoft. You should definitely wear a tie and also get a good haircut and make sure your shoes are clean or new, you don't have any dandruff, your teeth are well-whitened, clothes are stylish etc. All the small touches count, you could maybe wear a bow tie to try be playful and unique if you can pull it off. Carry a nice briefcase-type thing and have resumes printed on good paper to give out. All this will really help in addition to whether or not you are naturally good-looking and if you are confident enough.

I am not sure why Microsoft is like this, many other companies really don't care if you have missing teeth or a big belly as long as you're great at your job. I am not a PM but have heard many of them complain about this, and how you can only be ugly, old or scruffy if you have a great sponsor or many powerful friends or have been there a very long time with a great career trajectory.
posted by meepmeow at 7:17 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

so I tried to interview at a startup as a software engineer and I showed up wearing a suit. It was an awful idea. Don't be like me.

Microsoft is not a start-up.
posted by jalexei at 7:24 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Suit. Tie.
posted by slateyness at 7:27 PM on July 23, 2012

my friend was a former product marketing manager at microsoft (as of last summer), albeit a female. she said, "nice jeans, blazer, button down, no tie. they are pretty casual. if he wears a suit, it will be too much. he will probably interview with people in shorts, tee shirts, and socks with sandals. lol."
posted by violetk at 9:00 PM on July 23, 2012

My husband was a product manager in marketing at Microsoft. He never wore a suit, but always dress pants (chinos on casual days), crisply pressed dress shirt, dress shoes, no tie. Take the interview advice to always dress one notch above the interviewers, so add either a tie and no jacket, or a non-pants-matching jacket and no tie.
posted by matildaben at 9:31 PM on July 23, 2012

Either of your options is fine. As you can tell from this thread, there are about as many opinions on appropriate interview attire in the tech industry as there are interviewers. If you end up being interviewed by someone who actually cares enough about clothes to notice what you're wearing, the probability is equally high that they will think "Oh, he wore a suit, it's totally appropriate that he's taking this seriously" and "Oh, he wore a suit, what a tool." It is entirely luck-of-the-draw.

I'd say a nice shirt and a tie is a good bet. Bring the jacket and if you feel like you need more armor, put it on. Ultimately, don't overthink this, and try not to be self-conscious about it. I can't tell you how many candidates have made a joke about how they feel overdressed and awkward and I always reply, "It's nice for us to know you care enough about the interview to dress up. Don't worry about it."

I feel like I read every single one of these "What should I wear to my tech interview" questions, and always a bunch of jerks come out of the woodwork saying how harshly they judge anyone who wears a suit and how they would never hire anyone who showed up to interview in a suit. What is this, high school? Oh, I only ever consider hiring people who show up rocking either Converse high tops or Louboutins, myself, so I guess you all are out of luck.
posted by town of cats at 9:36 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do not wear a bow tie.
posted by tybstar at 10:00 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you can afford it, go to Banana Republic and tell them what you're telling us. They'll help you pick out things to try in various styles and combinations. Try on until you're wearing an outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks, and then buy it. I suggest BR because they have very sharp, well-cut men's clothes and lots of options. A suit and tie from BR can be hip without being too edgy. And they tend to hire people with good taste, who (at least at my local BR) are always happy to help.

(I'm not affiliated w/ them in any way. Just have had good experiences with this kind of thing.)
posted by isogloss at 10:04 PM on July 23, 2012

he will probably interview with people in shorts, tee shirts, and socks with sandals. lol.

My boyfriend works as a SDE at the Redmond campus, and this is basically what he wears to work every day (minus the socks *shudder*).

If you were interviewing as a dev, I would tell you NOT to wear a suit, because you would look comically overdressed next to your interviewers, some of whom WOULD be in t-shirts (I was astonished at the number of uncomfortable-looking interviewees I saw at Microsoft in full suits). However PMs deal with both devs and business people (who often dress in business casual), so you have more freedom to wear nicer clothes, if you prefer.

When I interviewed at the campus for a PM role, I wore a dressy shirt, jeans, and nice ballet flats (I'm a lady-type), and was very happy with my choice. I interviewed with 2 PMs in jeans/shorts and t-shirts, and two of their bosses in jeans and button-down shirts (the lower-ranked one in casual shoes, and the higher in dress shoes, if I recall correctly). I think Option Two is the perfect attire (although if you strongly prefer Option One, you could pull it off).

Good luck!
posted by copperdrake at 10:20 PM on July 23, 2012

In my eight years at Microsoft - ending in 2010, so pretty recent - I've interviewed many candidates for full-time positions (yes, on Redmond campus and including for product management roles). You could safely go with either of the two options listed. If I personally were in your situation, I'd go for option 2, but option 1 won't count against you in any team at Microsoft that I have seen in (and I've held jobs in three out of five divisions). So, don't over-think it. Choose whichever one of the above you personally will feel most comfortable in, and forget about it.

Fundamentally, the interview is a two-way dating game. If you are a suit-and-tie guy, and the company you are applying to work for is allergic to that, do you really want to work there? Be yourself and make sure the fit is good for you.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 10:21 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been dressed in jeans and t-shirt while interviewing hundreds of people, and almost all of them were formally dressed. I would think it quite strange if the candidate turned up in jeans - that's OUR dress code, and YOU don't work here yet. That said, if the candidate was great I would still recommend a hire regardless of what they were wearing. But remove it as a factor - dress respectfully and in a way which emphasises your professionalism, which to me means a decent suit and shoes and optional tie.

Also n-thing the comment upthread about ties and what not costing you a job. If this is seriously one of the deal-breaker criteria they use to judge candidates, can you imagine the performance review process? Any serious business (and whatever else it is, Microsoft is a serious business) will not give much weight to something so frivolous.
posted by StephenF at 6:37 AM on July 24, 2012

I worked at Microsoft for many years. Don't wear a tie. Business casual is best.
posted by w0mbat at 8:31 AM on July 24, 2012

From a friend (a lady, but, she got the job) who just interviewed there for a non programming position:
"Wear #2, but with slacks instead of jeans."
posted by bluefly at 10:04 AM on July 24, 2012

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